Twitter Details Plans To Become Micro-Google

Now that the iPad has launched, iPhone OS4 was announced and reviews have been written, we can finally write about something other than Apple. Because of the first ever Chirp conference, Twitter owned the news this week. I have already talked about Twitter purchasing Tweetie and Twitter’s advertising models. So, I am not going to talk about those stories again. However, if you want a nice summary of stories from Chirp, check out TheNextWeb’s handy list.

First, Twitter started down the road of better communications, hopefully, when they announced the new developer portal, This is a good first step, especially given the communications issues earlier in the week. Jesse Stay had some good comments about the new terms of service that were released with the new portal:

Twitter needs more transparency in its developer environment. Helping the developers to know what they’re getting into, what the rules are, and how they are expected to behave not only gives Twitter some leverage to control their environment, but it also allows developers to build a business knowing what they’re getting into and if all the hard work they put into it is in vain.

Along with this new portal, Twitter announced a bunch of things in varying stages of development. The key to these announcements is to figure out what they are, when they will be released and how it affects users and developers.

The big announcement was the full release of @anywhere, Twitter’s answer to Facebook Connect. In addition to the basic login idea, Twitter also supports a way to include a tweet box on your page, auto-linking of usernames, follow buttons and hovercards for user information. From what I have heard, it is also fairly simple to implement on your site as well, so this could be a big win for Twitter. Obviously, performance will be a major concern as bloggers do not like widgets that take too long to load.

Developers also got a nice present in the form of user streams. This feature is still in developer preview, so it may change. However, this allows Twitter to more reliably scale when there are thousands of applications requesting the updates for specific users. By removing the need for applications to poll the Twitter API, they provide a win-win situation. They get to scale their services better and users get a more reliable stream of information. Given that this is still in a developer preview, we will not see the benefits of this for a while.

Another interesting topic is related to Twitter’s geo API and “Places” or “Points of Interest”. This is really just an extension of their existing geo API, but it moves them into interesting territory. The first thought on everyone’s mind is whether this is a competing “check in” feature. Given the PR disaster regarding the Tweetie acquisition, they are avoiding the comparisons to Foursquare and Gowalla. For Twitter, this is more about relevancy to local users and search, as well as how it ties back to their new revenue in “Promoted Tweets”. As an example, what if you searched on Twitter for an Italian restaurant recommendation? If you have location enabled, you can quickly find relevant tweets and Twitter could also serve a Promoted Tweet for a local restaurant. A small company called Google has made a decent amount of money with search relevant advertising.

One announcement that has people talking is the addition of annotations or tweet metadata. This concept is still vaporware and is supposed to be launched at some point this quarter. However, that did not stop bloggers from beating annotations to death. Mahendra at SkepticGeek points to the main concern:

Annotations will be app-specific. Annotations devised by Tweetdeck will be incomprehensible to Seesmic and vice-versa. There is potential for vast fragmentation here, in the absence of a uniform taxonomy defined by Twitter.

Given the nature of most developers, I am expecting that this concern will be addressed by the community. Most likely, a group of developers (I am looking at you Jesse) will begin creating a standard taxonomy for Twitter annotations. It does not benefit developers to continuously create their own application specific metadata as that tends to hamper adoption as well as searchability. Annotations are also going to be a major feature of search, especially with Promoted Tweets. At the minimum, this allows users to stop using hashtags and other microsyntax within the tweet as all of this information is really just metadata for the tweet. Searchability changes as well because we will have a taxonomy of information readily available which enables developers to create more interesting applications and greater potential for data mining tweets. All of this points to more relevancy for search and Promoted Tweets.

On the rumor side of Chirp, other ideas were floated. With annotations, people expect that photos and other media will be attached to tweets. This is perfectly reasonable, but due to other recent announcements, people assumed that Twitter is thinking about creating their own features for this and effectively killing applications like TwitPic and other media sharing sites. Given the recent events, I find that highly unlikely, but do not be surprised if Twitter announces the purchase of TwitPic (or someone else in this space) by the end of the summer.

Another rumor that surfaced was about Twitter creating their own URL shortener and killing Granted, Twitter basically stated they will be creating their own service, but it does not really affect John Borthwick put the “is dead” talk quickly to rest in his response to the news:

Today represents less than 1% of links shortened

The only problem here is that there are several other URL shorteners. Some are application specific, like HootSuite’s, but others are definitely in danger. I would not be surprised if this announcement spurs the purchase of some existing shorteners, or at least the announcement of the availability for purchase.

It is rare that the announcements of one company can affect that many people, but Twitter has become a major force on the internet. With all of the work towards tweet relevancy, they are setting themselves up to be the Google of microblogging, where all data relates to advertising. By purchasing some of the better add-on applications, they will create even more metadata for their advertisers. Finally, we have seen Twitter’s grand scheme for revenue and it looks very familiar.

2 thoughts on “Twitter Details Plans To Become Micro-Google

  1. Hi Rob,

    I am pretty excited to hear that Twitter is going to expand their Geo API. Are we going to see API that allow developer to pull tweets from a particular location ? Example: status updates that people tweet from particular location like cafe, bookshop, cinema, etc ?

    The potential application is limitless. This will also push other geo service provider to provide a richer API to compete.



  2. Zainul

    The geo api does have some ability to pull tweets by location, but it is currently limited to general geography. I believe the “places” api will be headed in the direction you want.

    Between annotations and more geo apis, there are some really interesting potential applications.


Comments are closed.